Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Gifts

When the Grinch realized the true meaning of Christmas He said it didn't come in ribbons, packages, and bows but that it meant so much more.  When we look beyond what Dr. Seuss pointed out we discover even more.

Christmas comes wrapped in love, with sacrifice surrounding the package of forgiveness.  Jesus came forth as a man to die on a cross in order for each one of us to know the forgiveness of our sins.  May we remember this all year around.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ask, Don't Assume

1 Samuel 1:13-17Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I poured out my soul before Jehovah. Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken hitherto.  Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him.

Eli watched Hannah in the temple and without truly understanding Hannah, jumped to wrong conclusions about her. Was drunkenness a common sight in the temple?  How come he didn't recognize the Spirit working in the life of this hurting woman in front of him?  In what ways do we do the same?

Thankfully, Eli took the time to speak to Hannah and discover the truth.  When he sent her on her way, he spoke words of life instead of condemnation over her.  May we do the same today.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Goodbye Old and Hello New!

We must never make excuses for sin in our lives or in the lives of others.  We exemplify the mercy and grace poured out on us by Jesus when we extend it toward others and even ourselves.  The goal for all of us is to face the truth about our sin and be transformed by the resurrected power of Jesus Christ our Savior.

The enemy's deepest desires for us entails staying exactly where we are in our sin, of hurting others and being hurt.  He strives to convince us that we cannot change because that is just the way we were made by God.  Excuses for our sin strap and weigh us down.

Jesus came to set us free from unhealthy and destructive ways of living. He helps us face our sin, believe we have worth and value to Him, and overcome those areas in which we hurt others and ourselves.

Yes.  It's difficult to face the areas of our lives where we may be trapped in unhealthy and destructive patterns especially when others leave us because of it.  Yet, Jesus' promise of never leaving or forsaking us can strengthen us to move toward healing if we let it.

When all our excuses for our sins are tossed into the trash to be incinerated, then we finally begin to see the power of Jesus working in us and through us.  We are transformed, and we finally begin to enjoy the freedom found in loving and serving Jesus.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Trust, Rest, then Fly Free

In my normal course of conversation, I rarely use the word "awesome" to describe anything but my Savior.  I doubt He will mind too much though if I use it to describe the experience of holding a hummingbird in my hand and being able to pet her breast before she took flight.  

I'm not sure how long she banged up against the window in the back of our garage before my daughter discovered her dilemma.  I placed my hand about midway up the window so as she descended, she landed into it.  My first concern was whether or not her release from my garage might mean her certain death.  My mind whirled with questions on how I could properly care for her if she indeed was hurt.

When she finally settled in my hand long enough for me to carefully examine her, I observed that she had sustained no injuries.  The poor little thing just had no idea how to get out of my garage.  She didn't realize that taking flight in the opposite direction would have provided her with the freedom she so desperately yearned to possess again.  She repeatedly attempted to fly through the glass toward the world she clearly saw in front of her.  

In time I had gently persuaded her to not only sit in my hand, allow me to pet her back, breast, and head, but actually rest in the safety of my hand while I slowly meandered out of the garage.  I immediately offered her freedom but much to my surprise and joy, she refused it at first. Even when I walked up to the vine on our trellises and held her out to it, she remained still in my hand. 

I pulled her closely to my face as I rubbed my finger up and down her breast and watched her breathing slow down.  It was then I realized I wanted an image of this moment and asked my daughter to retrieve a camera.   I stared in awe at this small, delicate, and absolutely beautiful creature in my hand.  She took flight before the picture got snapped, but not before I had silently thanked Jesus for this opportunity.  

Later, as I pondered my experience, I remembered the many ways we too manage to trap ourselves behind closed windows.  We repeatedly do the same thing hoping for different results and many times miss out on our intended freedom.  We too need the guidance of a loving hand to point us in the proper direction.  If we can learn to trust and fully rest in our Savior's gentle, loving hands, then He will carry us to a new place and give us the opportunity to fly free.  

The lesson of the hummingbird is:  Trust, Rest, then Fly Free.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Refreshed By His Grace

Saul earned the right to boast about his accomplishments, didn't he?  As a young boy, he became well rehearsed in the Jewish laws and traditions.  He understood what was expected of him and strove to live up to those standards.  As an educated man, he rose to high ranks among the Pharisees.

Yet, on the road to Damascus with a letter in his hand from the Roman authorities to rid the earth of those following The Way, Saul encountered a blinding light.  From it he heard the words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"

Dumbfounded and clueless he inquired from the voice an identity.  He discovered the confrontation came directly from Jesus Christ.  Saul’s traveling companions saw nothing but heard the message delivered to Saul regarding his persecution of Christ’s followers.  

In those moments, Saul completely surrendered his heart and life to Jesus and from then on became known as Paul. His life took a hundred and eighty turn that day, and he never swayed from that decision. However, blinded by his encounter with Jesus he received instructions to head for the home of Ananias where he received his sight again.

We see from Paul’s pre-salvation days that he faithfully served as a Pharisee, and yet he was deceived by his life of religion.  He lived by Jewish traditions but actually fit the same category as the men who became angry with Jesus when He said, “You are like white-washed tombs, clean on the outside, but like dead bones on the inside.”

In the years that followed, Paul went from being the persecutor to the persecuted.  Many sought after him and strove to hinder his deliverance of the Gospel message.  They imprisoned him, beat him, stoned him, and eventually killed him.  Paul’s letters to the various churches during his ministry years provided us insight to not only what he endured, but how he responded to it.  

Many distrusted Paul at first, and some could never get past who he had been prior to his salvation, but Jesus transformed this man.  He learned the secrets to contentment regardless of his circumstance and a peace that surpassed understanding.

Some of the most difficult years in my Christian walk came during my husband’s third ministry.  The on-going tension of this particular ministry and the challenge of dealing with my troubled teenagers and young adults at the same time caused me to return to many of my childhood insecurities and patterns.  

Granted, during some of those years I sought professional Christian counseling and even overcame several inner battles from the past during that time.  Unfortunately, I still slipped back into some of my old destructive ways of dealing with too much drama in my life at one time.  As my insecurities resurfaced, with it returned my unhealthy ways of handling my relationships, circumstance, and responsibilities.  

A spirit of condemnation hovered over me.  I believed many times my life became about religion, and I lost focus on my relationship with Jesus.  I eventually came to a place where I seriously considered ditching the church and Christianity all together, but then would remember that only Jesus could offer me the words of life.

When my husband finally took a six month sabbatical from this almost eleven years ministry, it became apparent that this was absolutely necessary for my own emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.   We both hoped by the end of the sabbatical we both would be strengthened enough to return it, and in time see the Lord do great and mighty things in and through this ministry.

Thankfully, within six weeks of the sabbatical, I healed enough to be free of my anxiety and depression medications.  During this time the Lord brought several godly women into my life who walked beside me as I battled the lies of the enemy regarding my failures as a pastor's wife.  I slowly began to recognize the way my circumstances caused me to fall into some terribly unhealthy and often times destructive patterns.  

Together with the love of Jesus pouring from them, they pointed me toward my Source of truth and helped me tackle the lies regarding my value as a wife, mother, friend, and believer.  Through several Bible studies the Lord addressed my  issues regarding my significance.  He also reminded me of the freedom found when we walk according to the fruit of the Spirit instead of our emotions.  In time I started to grasp the reality of how Christ's death on the cross for my salvation proved my worth and value.

Now, over a year later, I praise Jesus for His work not only in my life, but in my husband and several of my children, too. In the words of Jason Gray, I can honestly say that, "In the hands of my Redeemer, nothing is wasted."  His work is far from done, but I love and appreciate the person who looks back at me in the mirror each morning now.  I am indeed a child of the One True King.

How about you?  Do you understand as Robert S. McGee says in his book, "Search For Significance" that you are "deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally accepted by God, and complete in Christ"?  He wants you to know the freedom that comes with knowing who you are because of Jesus living in you.  Like Paul, He wants us to put our past behind us and live in a healthy relationship with Him.

If you have any questions or want me to pray for you about something specific, please email me at

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tree Frog Infested Windows

I've decided that if given a chance, life contains humorous things to discover and watch.  Right now, two frogs some how have perched themselves on the highest windows in our living room.  

You see, we have main floor level windows, a window above that which would be at floor level for a second floor, and then a third window above that one.  These tree frogs are on the top two windows. 

I tried to snap some pictures but just could not get a close enough view of them.  I have the bright overhead lights on to attract the bugs to the window.   These tree frogs are feasting quite happily on them.  

They actually at times seem to be swooping them up in their hands, claws, frog legs or whatever they are called, and shoveling them into their mouths.  Other times you can see the head bobbing quickly around as the throat bulges from swallowing a bug.  Fascinating, really.

My only questions are:  how did they get up there so high, and when I turn off the lights and the bugs scatter will they fall to their certain death?

My last thought is one of an old tune singing in my head.  It goes something like this: "There are tree frogs on my windows, dear Liza, dear Liza.  There are tree frogs on my windows, dear Liza, some frogs."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Silent Request Given

Ever have just one of those days when morning came and the first thought that entered the mind was, "I just don't want to go to work today."  We may love our job and the people we work beside, but occasionally we just want a day off from the routine of life.

Today was one of those days for me, but I only had to work a half day anyway.  So going to work would be no big deal, because I knew my afternoon would be free.  I could have called in to use some personal time for the morning off, but I didn't have a valid cause to do it.

So, I got ready and headed for work.  I fortunately made it over the draw bridge before the lights and sirens sounded the coming of a barge.  A minute later and I would have had to call to let my boss know I was stuck on the bridge and would be late.  I'm relieved every morning when I get past that point,  because it's smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Listening to my worship music and talking with the Lord, I suddenly feel an odd bump in the road.  Now, I must relate this tidbit with my next part of my story, because it just makes it more fun to read.  I'm pretty sure I had been nursing this particular front tire for over a month now.  My dear sweet adorable and wonderful husband assured me all would be fine, and I believed him.

As I pulled to the side of the road and got out of the car, I knew what I would see.  Yes!  Yes! Yes! I jumped back in the car and immediately called my boss. Thank you Lord for providing me with a reason to take my morning off from work!  Now please don't get me wrong.  I absolutely love my job.  The Lord truly has used it to develop me, but I just wanted the day off today.  

My second call was to my loving hubby who came to my rescue.  He put the spare on, and we drove to the local car dealership where we got immediate service.  While they replaced the tire my hubby, daughter, and I sat in the local diner enjoying a breakfast together.  Now I can enjoy my morning taking pictures and writing.  My doggie got a bath too, and so he is all soft, fluffy, and smelling wonderful.  I bet he wishes I went to work.

I don't know about you, but I honestly think that sometimes, even though it's not a life or death kind of thing, the Lord still delights in giving us the desires of our heart.  I'm taking His answer and running with it today.  How about you?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Undetected Appearances

      Ticks are icky.  I’m just stating the obvious. I definitely do not understand the reason the Lord created them, but I can assure you that imbedding themselves into my belly gives no purpose to their existence.  You know, all my life I’ve managed to escape the bite of these gross tiny creatures until this past month.  I’ve just encountered a wood tick eating my stomach again this morning, and I’m not a happy camper.  In fact in all my times of camping and even playing in the woods of New Jersey as a kid, I never found one on me.  Why do ticks seem to have craving for me now?

     Could it be the extra tummy fat that I’ve accumulated over the last several years?  I suppose if they actually ate my extra pounds away, I might consider letting them stay.  Alas, ridding my body of its extra weight is not their agenda.  However, maybe their desire to eat me should motivate me to lose weight, if I could actually prove it’s their reason for making their way in my direction.

     In reality, not too many things freak me out the way snakes, mice, and ticks on my tummy do.  I would have provided you with a photo for the added entertainment to this little tale, but that would have meant jumping out of the shower to grab my camera.  It also would have required leaving him on me while I snapped the picture of him enjoying his feast.  In the end, I’m pretty sure you appreciate that I kept this particular picture to myself.

     The truth be known, I found little humor regarding this tick in the moment of my discovery.  I was too freaked out and yanked him off me as quickly as I could wrap my two fingernails around his measly little body.  Yet I wonder how long this disgusting creature enjoyed his banquet table.  He may have savored the flavor of me all night or maybe he only arrived an hour earlier when I had walked the dog.  What I do know is that his presence remained hidden until my shower. I assume the best way to prevent the invasion of these horrible critters would be to lather my body with bug repellent before venturing outside again.

     My battle with the ticks this summer reminds me of the way the enemy crawls undetected into our lives.  Often times we miss the subtle steps in which he encroaches and snags us into his lies. When we extend too much freedom to him, he infects our heart with his distorted view of the Lord, others, and life in general.  Unfortunately, when we finally awaken to the truth, the damage can be quite extensive.

     The best way to prevent any discrepancy with the truth is for us to honestly evaluate our thoughts, words, and deeds in light of Scripture.  We need to ask the Lord to reveal to us any way we might be quenching the Holy Spirit, and we must choose to submit to His way of doing things.  Put on your armor and let us rid our lives of these invaders!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Beauty Rises Out of Rough Places

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the one of Joseph.  He knew what it was like to fall victim to the sinful acts of others, but despite the evil others committed against him he always found favor by those in authority.  The Scriptures say that not only was the Lord present with him, but the Lord showed kindness toward him.  Those who treated Joseph well received this kindness, too. Who was this man?

As a young boy Joseph received prophetic dreams from the Lord.  In these dreams Joseph’s father and brothers bowed before him.  Joseph constantly talked about his dreams, and this infuriated his brothers.  To make matters worse, Joseph received a special multi-colored coat from their father.  Jacob favored the first-born son from his wife, Rachel, because the wife he loved was only given to him after being deceived and bamboozled into marrying her older sister Leah first.  She died after giving birth to Joseph’s brother, Benjamin.

One day, Joseph headed out to the fields in search of his brothers.  They couldn't miss him as they saw the brightness of his coat as he approached.  A deep root of anger and jealousy simmered in their hearts, and now an ideal situation presented itself for them to lash out and rid their lives of the one that vexed them.  They tore his coat from him and hurled him into a dried out well.

As they ate and contemplated their exact plan of action, Joseph must have wondered if his dreams actually came from the Lord now. He probably struggled with how he was partially at fault for his predicament.  When his brothers finally decided to sell him off to some travelers instead of killing him, he still probably questioned the validity of his dreams and how he might have done things differently so that his brothers wouldn’t have sold him.

Regrets or not Joseph made the best of his circumstances and quickly found favor with Poptipher who put him in charge of his household. He held this position until one day when Potipher’s promiscuous wife got a hold of his robe and used it as evidence to make false accusations of rape against him.  His continual refusal of her advances angered her, and this landed him innocently in jail. Even there he gained favor among those in charge. 

By the time Joseph turned thirty he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt and was asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  This dream told about seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine coming to the land.  Pharaoh asked Joseph for a plan to save his people, and his solution so impressed Pharaoh that he placed Joseph second in command.

It was during this great famine that his life crossed paths with his brothers again.  Their father heard about a man he believed could help their hunger situation and sent his sons to Egypt for food.  Joseph instantly recognized his brothers, but his identity remained hidden from them until Joseph knew it would be safe to make himself known. 

Joseph questioned his brother’s intentions and also asked questions about their family.  He discovered that his father and his brother, Benjamin, were well. Joseph demanded they bring Benjamin to Egypt.  Only after practically starving to death, did Jacob agree to allow Benjamin to travel back to Egypt with them.  Joseph became overwhelmed with emotion when his brothers returned with Benjamin but still kept his identity from them.  He provided them with food and had a silver cup secretly placed in Benjamin’s sack.  When the brothers did everything to protect Benjamin from being punished for stealing the cup, Joseph knew their hearts had changed since his encounter with them as a young boy and revealed his identity to them.

With his entire family now united, Joseph cared for them throughout the rest of the famine.  Despite his provisions, his brothers never really understood or trusted the heart of the brother they had mistreated.  When their father passed away they continued to reel in guilt from their choices and feared for their lives.  Sensing their fear and distrust for him, Joseph took them aside and said, "What you meant for evil against me the Lord used for good for the preservation of many lives."

The bragging young boy had been transformed over their long years of separation. Joseph recognized the way the Lord weaved great beauty from the rough places he faced.  He trusted the way the Lord used not only his brother’s sinful response to his boasting about his dreams but his years in prison to bring about a plan for His people. Joseph submitted to the Lord’s will and allowed each difficulty to mold him into a man with a deep trust and faith in God’s sovereignty.

I admire Joseph, and his trust in God’s plan over his life. It helps me see the way the Lord desires for me to trust in the Lord’s sovereignty, too.  My life has tasted the pain caused by my sins as well as the sins others committed against me.  I’ve wrestled with the Lord over some of my experiences but in time have come to accept His plans for me, and the way He manages to bring good from it.

I imagine Joseph probably wondered where God might be in the midst of his trials though.   If he was anything like me, he at times pouted, sulked, and sometimes became angry about his situations, but eventually trusted that the Lord knew what was best for him.  The Scriptures don’t provide us with the reason Joseph constantly found favor with those in authority over him, but I believe it had to do with his attitude and ultimate trust in the Lord.

Trusting during difficult times isn’t easy, especially when troubles get compounded with many blows at one time.  I can pinpoint specific times in my life when my trials overwhelmed me and how I barely held on to my faith. I even considered walking away until I realized there was nowhere else to go to find the Words of Life. Unfortunately, in my times of doubt, I tended to slip back into unhealthy patterns of dealing with people and circumstances.  This eventually resulted in being alienated from those unable to deal with me in that state.  The enemy of my soul reveled in my unhealthy patterns and condemned me for being difficult for some to handle in those times.

Thankfully, Jesus reached out His loving and accepting hands to pick me up out of the muck and mire and redirected my steps. He showed me that while others pushed me away when I was stressed out, He wanted me to come to Him so that I might learn to truly rest. He never put His hand up to me or gave up on me.  He started a good work in me and intended on completing it. Despite my failures, He reminded me that His death on the cross provided the proof of His commitment to me forever.

Rehashing the exact details of all that happened to me offers no help to anyone, but knowing someone endured similar hardships is helpful for all. My hope is that just like Joseph’s story inspired me, I pray mine will do the same for others.  My life includes a lot of falling down along the way, but it’s a journey about getting back up, too.  Like Joseph, it reveals the way beauty truly emerges out of rough places.

As a child from a divorced home, I knew not only the hurt from only weekend visits with my father, but the way tension increased in a household when a second marriage brought into the home other hurt and angry children.  I’ve helplessly sat by and watched the destructive power of alcohol, and the trail of hurts it leaves on all the family members involved with it.  I’ve not only experienced being violated myself, but carried the burden of trying to protect a child from the same injury and failed.

I’ve experienced multiple times of abandonment from various important people in my life. It was during these times that a false belief surfaced that I was not valuable or worth anyone’s time.  Since age seven, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression that constantly left me with the sense that everyone would be much happier if I just died.  As an adult, I sometimes needed medications to keep my anxiety and depression at bay.

My marriage came with some built-in problems due to my unhealthy emotional responses to my past and my struggles to heal from them.  My marriage faced a time when divorce seemed to be the best option for everyone, but the Lord orchestrated through the death of my father a great healing instead.  Unfortunately some of the deepest wounds inflicted on my family and on me came from those within the church.

However, I can honestly testify with confidence that what those used by Satan meant for evil against my family and me personally have been used for good. The more I pursued walking according to the Spirit instead of the flesh, the more dross the Lord lifted to the surface to remove from my heart. He helped me face the lies I believed about Him and myself.

With time I’ve learned to release my hurts to Him and look at my past as His cleansing work in my life to help me become more like my Savior, gracious and merciful to others.  I know that as long as I take responsibility for my sins against others and strive to live at peace with others, then the Lord can handle the rest.

Life is filled with rough places.  Often times, we find ourselves in a bad place due to our own sinful choices but other times we are there because of the sinful choices of others.  Regardless of how we got there, the Lord wants to raise beauty out of the messes we find ourselves. 

What do you need to release into His hands today?  Will you open your heart unreserved to the One Who made you and is committed to healing you?  He sees your worth and value and desires for you to see it too.  Will you let Him carry you to a place of true peace and rest today? 

@copyright 6/10/2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Unusual in the Usual Place

The friends stood outside the crowded house in Capernaum where Jesus visited. They wondered how they would ever manage to get their friend born with palsy near Jesus.  Determined to have an opportunity to seek help for him, these men literally raised the roof to lower their friend toward Jesus.

Jesus oddly enough, praised the faith of the paralyzed man and granted him forgiveness for his sins.  The friends sought physical healing, but Jesus sensed a need for something greater than walking.  Immediately, Jesus sensed the disapproval of the Scribes present in the crowd and challenged them with a question.  “Which is easier to say?  Your sins are forgiven or get up and walk.”

This rhetorical question really needed no answer.  Think about it though.  It’s easier to say your sins are forgiven, because if it didn’t really happen, no one but the intended receiver would know.  When we receive the gift of forgiveness we alone know the power and inward healing of those words.  It isn’t until we live in light of those words and display the transforming power of those words that others can know we received it.

Jesus understood the logic of their thought process as well as ours. Therefore, to prove His ability to forgive sins to the crowd, He told the paralytic man to pick up his mat and walk.  The immediate physical healing revealed the power Jesus possesses to change a person’s life forever.

Witnessing physical healing would increase anyone’s faith, wouldn’t it?  Believe it or not, sometimes is does but others times it doesn’t.  Like those in Jesus’ day, we’re prone to skepticism, too.  We don’t expect something extra-ordinary to take place.  We look for the predictable, those things we can produce in our own power, or those things that make us comfortable.  Many times we miss seeing what the Lord can do or is doing, because we only see what we expect to see.  If we could develop a keener eye for the unusual, we might actually begin to recognize the Lord’s presence more.

Journey with me now, down memory lane, to the place of discovering again how the Lord did the unusual in the usual places.  My memories instantly gravitate to the early 90’s when my husband decided to leave his secular job and finish his education in preparation for full-time ministry.  We lived in Eastern Pennsylvania in our first home with four children ranging in the ages of one to eight. 

In a step of faith we put our house up for sale at a time when homes around us had been on the market for a year or more.  The Lord sold our home in one month.  So, we packed up everything we could carry into a homemade trailer and stayed in a mobile home provided by friends for six weeks so my husband could finish up his employment.  We then headed to Texas to stay with my husband’s parents for the Christmas holidays.

At the first of the year, with no acceptance letter from Moody Bible Institute yet, my husband headed to Chicago for registration day and was immediately given admission.  Later that day he located an apartment for our family that had the one thing I prayed for, a washer and dryer.  The day the children and I arrived I made some calls to locate a church in our area with an AWANA program for my children.  Several calls later, I spoke to the AWANA leader who informed me that one of their members lived on my street, a second specific prayer I asked the Lord for with this move. Our year in Chicago was rich with opportunities of fun and fellowship because of this gift of friendship.

One Saturday in the summer of that year my youngest son cracked open his head on a coffee table, and a trip to the emergency room required internal as well as external stitches.  On Monday we received an anonymous check in the mail from the church we previously attended in Pennsylvania that covered the entire hospital bill.  A year later the Lord provided a second anonymous check to pay the entire hospital bill of a second son’s injury within twenty-four hours of the accident. 

The Lord never stopped watching over us and during our mid-thirties we returned to the East coast for a few years after the death of my father.  My husband returned to his previous job for a time until the Lord opened up a different job for him as he also gave my husband the opportunity to be the pastor of a new church plant.  As this new ministry began the Lord provided a large facility for only fifty dollars a week, a professionally made church sign for free, money for needed tables, and an organization the provided free food for the food pantry we started for the less fortunate in the area.

If these unusual events were not enough to boost our faith we also saw my husband’s father receive an instant healing from an x-ray confirmed broken neck.  A couple weeks later my husband went into shock after a thousand pound furnace fell on his thigh, but he walk out of the emergency room hours with only a bruise.

The Lord never stopped doing these kind of unusual things for us.  Most recently, He provided us with a mansion on a hill to rent while we settled into our new ministry.  For over five months we have been able to overlook the Mississippi River with its beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  We had the joy of hosting an Easter sunrise service and meal in our home with over sixty in attendance, and every month a group of ladies gather together for great fun and fellowship. 

What about you?  Close your eyes and let your mind wander down memory lane to the times you can see the Lord doing unusual things in the usual places.  Each memory provides you with a moment in time when the Lord wanted you to recognize His presence with you.  Tell Jesus thank you for showing you His presence and share your memory with someone else.  May we always help one another see Jesus in the usual places.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Believing the Impossible


     Matthew 19 told the story of a man described not only as young but rich.  He approached Jesus about what he needed to do to obtain eternal life.  Despite what he had already possessed, he lacked the confidence about his eternal destination.  His question indicated his belief in a life beyond this one.  
     Jesus quoted several of the Ten Commandments, and the man confidently responded about his obedience to them.  However, unsatisfied with the idea that this might help him, he asked Jesus what else he lacked.  Seeing the deepest issues of this man’s heart, Jesus challenged him to sell all he owned and give all the money to the poor and come follow Him.  With deep sorrow, the man departed.
     The man received the call to be Jesus’ thirteenth disciple but didn’t accept the offer.  It proved the sad truth on how money will be our master if the Lord isn’t.   With his departure, Jesus informed the disciples the way riches caused difficulties for the wealthy.  The disciples and the rich young man must have assumed that money could buy anything, even eternal life.  Jesus’ comment bothered the disciples, and they questioned Jesus on who could inherit eternal life if the rich had trouble.  Jesus assured them that the Lord accomplished that which is impossible for man.
     The word “impossible” conjures up different thoughts and emotions for each one of us.  For some, it spurs on the desire to prove the naysayer in our lives wrong.  For others, it generates a sense of hopelessness of ever overcoming the mistakes of their past.  Yet for those of faith, it hopefully stirs up excitement and anticipation.
     The naysayer and those feeling hopeless might ask these kind questions and respond this way:
Can something really be created from nothing?  Can good truly come from being sold into slavery? Can waters really part a large river and make the land passable? Can an army march around a city wall and bring it down? Well, of course not. Impossible.
Can a king who committed adultery and murder be a true friend of God? Can a young boy slay a giant with just a sling and stone? Can a donkey talk about seeing an army of angels? Can someone be thrown into a fire and come out of it without a burn? Well, of course not. Impossible.
Can someone walk on water? Can water be transformed into wine?Can two fish and five loaves of bread feed 5,000 hungry men with all their wives and children? Can someone decay in the grave for three days and then come back alive again? Well, of course not. Impossible.
Can a tax collector return five times the amount he stole from others? Can one who had five husband and lives with a sixth make better choices? Can a friend who denied knowing you, turn around and sacrifice his life for you? Can one who murders Christians ever change? Well, of course not.  Impossible.
     Yet, we know the Scriptures tell us all these things took place and by faith, we believe these incidents are true.  However, what do we believe the Lord can do today?  Is He that same God able to do what no one else can do in us and through us?
     Do we believe people can be transformed in the way they think, speak, and act? Do we believe there is “No Condemnation” for the one who knows and loves Jesus? Do we believe in a power that enables us to forgive our enemies and extend mercy and grace toward them? Do we believe we can truly love those who refuse to return our love? Well, of course.  We depend on it.
     Do we believe we can receive healing physically, spiritually, and emotionally? Do we believe someone can be rescued from addictions? Do we believe marriages can be healed? Do we believe we can have joy in difficult circumstances? Well, of course.  We depend on it.
     Do we have the confidence Paul displayed to the Philippians when he said, “He who began a good work will complete it”?  On our own, we’re powerless to change our ways.  Instead we need to recognize the habits and unhealthy responses and seek the Lord for their removal. 
For my life I choose to believe He is in the process of:
·       Making me a woman who loves Him with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind.
·       Making me a joyful woman despite my circumstances.
·       Making me a woman who strives to please the Lord over people.
·       Making me a humble woman wholly submitted to His will and way.
·       Making me a woman of the Word.
·       Making me a woman devoted to prayer.
·       Making me a free woman of my past.
·       Making me a woman who listens more and talks less.
·       Making me a grateful woman.
·       Making me a woman of encouragement, grace, and forgiveness.
·       Making me a giving woman without expecting anything in return.
·       Making me a contented woman.
·       Making me a woman who obsesses on those things that honor the Lord only.
·       Making me a non-gossiping woman.
·       Making me a woman who draws others to the Lord.
·       Making me a compassionate and merciful woman.
·       Making me a woman filled and controlled by His Spirit.
·       Making me a woman of truth.
·       Making me a woman who loves like Him.
·       Making me a woman who understands her value, worth, and purpose.
·       Making me a woman of courage and strength.

     Do any of these desires resonate with you?  What do you want to begin believing the Lord for today?  Write them down and daily ask the Lord to make you a person who honors Him in everything you think, say, and do.

@copyright 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Compassion in its Finest

      We don’t really know the reason people make the choices they do. We may only somewhat understand our own. At times we even make assumptions and jump to all kinds of conclusions about others decisions.  However, unless the person shares their feelings with us, we are only making a guess about them.

    The Scriptures tell us a story of an injured man on the side of the road and the response of three by-passers. The purpose of this parable was to teach what it takes to be a truly loving neighbor.  It drives home the point that in order to love the Lord we cannot physically see with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, we must love the neighbor we can see.

     Our story begins by telling us about a man ambushed and severely injured by a robber. He lies on the side of the road, possibly close to death.  The first two men, a priest and a Levite, pass by on the other side.  For whatever reason, they avoid getting involved in the situation. We can make guesses as to their reasons, but instead should put ourselves in a similar situation and honestly evaluate what we do.  Don’t we pass stopped cars or the filthy individuals holding signs and asking for money all the time?

     Jesus points out that the third man, who stops to help the injured man was first and foremost a man of compassion. The fact that he was a Samaritan adds more validity to his compassion as he crossed cultural differences to assist the hurt man.  We are told the Samaritan went above the call of duty by not only taking care of the immediate needs of this man but assuring the innkeeper his desire to foot the entire bill to see that this man received the necessary care for him to regain his health. 

     This parable reminds me of two particular incidents in my life in which the Lord placed caretakers in my life as a young lost girl.  The first was my first grade teacher and the second was my seventh grade teacher.

     As a seven year old I took a fall on the playground, skinning up my knee.  My teacher comforted my tears with a hug.  I had no idea at the time the reason I craved affection from her, but what would be considered modern day self-inflicted injury, I fell every day afterward.  I received the exact same response each time, comforting arms.  I believe compassion for a troubled little girl drove this woman’s response to me.

     By the time I reached seventh grade, my private struggle with suicidal thoughts consumed most of my waking hours.  I decided to take a risk and gave my English teacher a journal entry revealing my dark and dismal thoughts.  For the next two years she invested even some of her off hours trying to instill in me a sense of self-worth.  Unfortunately, it was void of the saving grace of Jesus, but it did keep me alive to find Jesus as my Savior in the middle of my sophomore year of high school.

     As I reflected on this parable and these teachers placed in my life, I realized their provision in my life from the Lord. Due to my insecurities, I had few companions my own age and carried many deep unresolved fears far into my adult life.  It took decades for me to fully comprehend how the Lord lived this parable out in my life with my own Good Samaritans.

     How about you?  Can you reflect on your life and see the way the Lord brought a person of deep compassion into your life?  Do you see the way they went beyond the call of duty to help you?  How did his or her response give value and meaning to that difficult time in your life?  When you were bleeding and needing someone to bind up your wounds, what did they do to care for your injuries?  Even if they are no longer a part of your life, praise Jesus for providing them for you when you needed them.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Always Dream

As a young boy the Lord gave Joseph dreams.  These dreams showed Joseph accomplishing great things and his father and brothers bowing before him.  Joseph enjoyed talking about his dreams and this infuriated his brothers.  Increasing the tension even more with his siblings, their father gifted Joseph with a multi-colored coat that he wore all the time.

One day, Joseph headed out to the fields in search of his brothers.  They couldn't miss his coming as they saw the brightness of his coat as he approached.  A deep root of anger and jealousy simmered in their hearts, and now an ideal situation had arisen for them to lash out and rid their lives of the one that vexed them.

As they ate and contemplated their exact plan of action, Joseph sat at the bottom of the dried out well.  Certainly he must have wondered if his dreams had actually come from the Lord now.  As his brothers decided to sell him off to some travelers instead of killing him, he still probably questioned the validity of his dreams.

However, Joseph made the best of his circumstances and no matter where he landed he found favor with those in authority over him.  Eventually he rose to a position of second in charge in the land of Egypt.  It was during a great famine in the land that his life crosses paths with his brothers again.  He instantly recognized them, but they remained clueless about his identity until they past the test Joseph placed before them to confirm whether their hearts had changed since their last encounter.

His brothers never really understood the heart of Joseph until the passing of their father.  They were still reeling in guilt and fear for their lives.  However, Joseph looked at them and with full trust in how the Lord worked in his life he said to his brothers, "What you meant for evil against me the Lord used for good for the preservation of many lives."

Whether we receive true visions or just a dream implanted within our hearts, we need to realize that Jesus fulfills the dreams submitted to honoring and glorifying the Lord.  Those dreams come in unexpected ways and most of the time in unexpected times.  Just like Joseph needed pride removed before his dreams came true, we too might need some heart preparation before our dreams come to pass.

For now, may we place all our dreams in our Savior's hand and trust the fulfillment of them to His timing and His way.  His plans will be best for everyone involved.